Past year proves Mehlville does indeed have its opponents

By BURKE WASSON

Young parents and former Mehlville School District leaders were urged last week to demand and support improvement to district schools. We’d like to add one more group to that list — opponents.

At a Board of Education retreat last summer, board member Micheal Ocello, now serving as vice president, was concerned with “adversaries” and “opponents” marring a public forum with “political speeches.”

In a subsequent column, we wrote: “We find it a bit troubling that Ocello views public interaction as a battle. We’re also curious who he means when he refers to ‘opponents.’ Are they district opponents? Ocello opponents? Either way, it doesn’t matter. These unnamed people are still residents …”

If the past year has taught us anything, it’s that Ocello was right. The Mehlville School District does indeed have opponents.

In short, this year could have been better for Mehlville as the district was ravaged with bad publicity.

Last year, the school board was given faulty financial projections before it approved the 2007-2008 budget. To avoid financial trouble, Mehlville officials have proposed cuts for the 2008-2009 budget.

While the April school-board race resulted in the election of three outstanding board members, other candidates campaigned more with the self-serving goal of saving tax dollars than the board’s real function of improving education. Fortunately, most voters saw through that flawed logic, which was spurred on by critics who seemed to be more interested in tearing the district down than building it up.

With all of these factors and individuals working against Mehlville, the district has pressed on with its public-engagement program, COMPASS. At the final COMPASS session last week, Facilitating Team co-chair Dan Fowler urged “young parents” and “disenfranchised” former district leaders to “come home” and help Mehlville reach its potential.

He believes that without parents’ support, any such plan proposed through COMPASS will “fail.”

We say the aforementioned “opponents” whom Mr. Ocello has rightly criticized are on notice as well.

We have to question the priorities of people who would save a few tax dollars or champion party politics before they would improve the education of 11,000 children.

To paraphrase recent comments from Facilitating Team member Paul Goldak, who can say that improved student performance is bad?